Review Summary: A wonderful start to one of the 90's best bands
This album marks a very interesting spot in the development of the Pumpkins. Here you have them embracing a more straightfoward hard rock approach while holding on to the psychedelia Corgan was obsessed early on in thir career. It is also interesting that just like Siamese Dream, this album was totally recorded by Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain. Corgan being a major control freak, wasn't satisfied with the pace guitarist James Iha and bassist D'arcy Wretzky recorded their tracks, so Corgan decided to manage all guitar and bass duties on Gish and Siamese Dream. Pumpkins fans looking for something a little less ambitious than Mellon Collie and a bit more straightfoward than Siamese Dream will find Gish totally satisfying. Production on this album was handled by the one and only Butch Vig, who also manned the boards for Siamese Dream.
People who find Corgan's overly nasal vocal delivery annoying will find Corgan's singing on this album a little more satisfying. Gish features Corgan at his vocal best, and Chamberlain as genius behind the drums as usual. Corgan and Chamberlain sound especially tight in the rocker "Tristessa", where Corgan's chugging riffs meet Chamberlain's powerful drum rolls. This album is filled with good hard rock songs, whether it be "Siva" and its layered riffs or the the tight drumming and bassline of "I Am One". "Snail" has a Siamese Dream like atmosphere around it, and "Bury Me" features another grinding Corgan riff.
The Pumpkins have always had a mellow side, and between the rockers you get to hear some softer tracks. "Rhinoceros" is a psychedelic as the Pumpkins have ever been, but the peaceful track builds up towards the end, leading to an absolutely shredding guitar solo from Corgan. "Crush" is a beautiful, simple love song driven by phased guitars and an ascending bassline. The outro track, "Daydream", is a soft acoustic track sung by D'arcy Wretzky.
It's a great start to a long and influential career, but it's not their best album of course. It lacks the life-affirming force that hit me during my first listen to Siamese Dream had, but the Pumpkins feel is totally intact here: the layered guitars, Chamberlain's drumming, and the distinct Pumpkins approach to songwriting. In an era where you were applauded for being as lo-fi as possible, Corgan pulled out all the stops, making his music as grand and layered as 70's acts like Queen and ELO, bands that most punks would've scoffed at the mention of. Corgan's insane ambition isn't fully realized till the Pumpkins' next two efforts, but Gish is a fine, hard rocking start.